On Thursday 22nd March, I was convener of the Public Libraries Victoria Network, ICT Special Interest Group Unconference in Melbourne.
Forty-seven enthusiastic library staff attended, from a wide range of public libraries from across Victoria. After a quick introduction and some guidelines, people put down their topics of interest on presentation paper. Astoundingly, after a big of juggling with the program for the day, we managed to find a place in the schedule for all 15 topics – with three concurrent sessions over 5 time periods.
As organiser, I tended to float around the different sessions, putting in my two cents worth and picking up gems of wisdom from the amazing people who work with ICT and the Internet in libraries.
You can see our final program at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tang02/7009523295/
In the first concurrent session, the Library Design for Tech sessions discussed new building design and the things we hope to try and plan for the future (difficult when we don’t know what they will be) ,as well modifying our existing buildings for things that weren’t even imagined when they were first built. Thinking revolutionary challenged us to think outside the box. To leave aside our preconceived ideas of everything and to consider ideas that we wouldn’t normally associate with libraries. Staff training explored how we keep our staff up-to-date with new technologies and more.
In the second concurrent session the Mobile web design and apps session discovered that there are some apps already around suitable for our public libraries that we didn’t already know about. Lending e-readers and iPads discovered what Geelong is doing with their program and explored issues around this and Internet speed/NBN discussed what type of speeds should be considered standard and just what we will be wanting and able to do once we have the NBN in our libraries and our neighbourhoods.
A lunch break, where most of the attendees ate and then stuck around and networked and then it was back into the program.
The third concurrent session explored what we would like in a Digital Media Lab – everything from creative software suites, to tech staff and 3D printers. Responsive web design talked a bit about options for making our library websites the way we want, from choosing the platform to getting in with Council’s IT on choosing same. RFID Devices and Returns was the largest session by far and the queries of those who are planning to or embarking on the RFID path, were well-answered by those who have been there and done that.
We then all came together for our next session, which was supposed to be two guest speakers, but which fell through. Taking the idea from Library Camp Oz, we ended up with a bunch of wonderful volunteers, who each gave 2 minute lightning talks on innovative things that were happening at their library. I thought this ended up being one of the highlights of the day!
The topics covered were: lending iPads, using Pinterest in the library, iPad program for toddlers, automated suggestion for purchase system, next phase Learning 2.0 program for staff, library apps, touch screens for kids, Yammer group for Library IT communication and more……
The fourth concurrent session explored the IT Department and Vendor relationships – how to improve them and get the best out of them for the library, eBooks which are on everyone’s agenda for this year and Statistics and how we can get some useful data from those resources we use that don’t give it to us.
The final concurrent session expanded on iPads as tools, using Tech for local history and I finally sat down for an entire session, which was on Social integration. In Social integration, we discussed how to amalgamate our web presences, how to get more users to those same presences, using tricks and tools that are readily available, but not necessarily well known.
So finally, what did I learn as an organiser of the event. I learned that:
- the day truly does belong to those who attend. We had great feedback and from that alone, I would like to run another unconference. Not everyone had been to an unconference before, but almost all of the 47 attendees so it was perfect for IT and libraries.
- that you can’t run it alone. I had great organisation skill and arrangements from Elisabeth Jackson at PLVN, who took all the bookings, handled all the payments and organised all the food.
- that you can’t run it alone, part 2. The PLVN ICT Committee, which was responsible for this event, not only were invaluable in the organisation of the day, but also in convening concurrent sessions and sharing their expertise and in stepping up and giving lightning talks with virtually no notice.
- that you can learn a lot from others doing the same thing – so thanks to Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries and Library Camp Australia who both gave me wonderful examples of library unconferences to learn from.
- that you can either organise or attend, but can’t really do both to any level of satisfaction – I was really only able to attend the lightning talks (where I was time keeper) and the last concurrent session, as I was too busy organising and then keeping an eye on the sessions the rest of the day. Still, it was absolutely worth it. Even with only being able to attend those few sessions and picking up bits and pieces as I checked, I still got a lot out of the day, as an attendee as well as an organiser.
If you haven’t attended an unconference, then you must add it to your list of things to do. And if you ever get the chance to organise one, do it – its a fantastic experience all of its own.